Patriotism on a public school campus

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 7. Friday, April 17, 2015.

Category: Writing

Reason for publication: Twice a week, a video bulletin is aired to the student population. The videos started to include patriotic quotes from former U.S. president’s on a waving flag. I wondered why this was, and was informed public schools have to have at least one patriotic observance per day. In this story, I hoped to uncover the reasoning and purpose of patriotism on a school campus.


 

   Recently, student legislators at University of California, Irvine voted to ban the presence of the flags of any nation – including America’s – in its campus’ student government building in order to avoid any exclusion that the flags may present.

  Following the vote, audible protest, mostly based on anger over the removal of the American flag, sprang up. The flag ban was eventually vetoed.

  On the Granite Bay High School campus, new patriotism quotes have appeared on GBHS Media’s bulletin, including statements from speakers such as former presidents Calvin Coolidge and George H.W. Bush.

  However, the quotes had appeared on bulletins prior to Zachary Weidkamp’s takeover of the Media department. The quotes were launched again this year after the administration reached out to Weidkamp, GBHS International Baccalaureate Film, Advanced Media and Beginning Media teacher, about incorporating them on the basis of a policy and a mutual agreement was reached.

  According to the Roseville Joint Union High School District policy, which follows the education code, a patriotic observance must occur every day at school and, in GBHS’ case, these take place in the form of either the Pledge of Allegiance or the quotes on the bulletins.

   Both the proposed flag ban and new patriotism quotes in the bulletins bring up the controversial issue of patriotism on the GBHS campus. GBHS principal Jennifer Leighton and district superintendent Ron Severson declined to be interviewed for this story.

  While many agree with and support the presence of patriotism on campus some, however, do not.

  The aforementioned patriotism-geared quotes serve to emphasize and recognize patriotism is something American citizen can all relate to, according to Weidkamp. However, some – like GBHS IB History of the Americas and Advanced Placement United States history teacher Brandon Dell’Orto said the quotes aren’t very effective and a potentially more successful use of time would be if the bulletin had a news segment or addressed national affairs.

  “I don’t think (the quotes) are really effective,” Dell’Orto said. “I don’t think they’re changing anybody, but I distinctly don’t think they’re hurting anybody. I think they’re effective in making sure we have some sort of patriotic observance (but) it’s a pretty innocuous way to do it.”

   GBHS junior Sonia Matheus said the quotes seem irrelevant and random, they appear without explanation or background and most people ignore them.

  Sophomore Parker Wilkin, conversely, said the quotes serve to remind the school of its background and the greatness of the country they live in.

  “I believe the purpose of the patriotic quotes in the bulletin is to both inspire patriotism and inform students about what makes our country so great and what it means to be an American,” Wilkin said. “I think patriotic quotes in the bulletin are a very effective way to promote patriotism. Most of us have been repeating the Pledge every day at school since kindergarten, so maybe some people don’t even think about its meaning anymore – if so, it may lose its effectiveness at promoting patriotism.”

  The varying opinions of the quotes brings up a greater idea of patriotism on campus and question its necessity. Dell’Orto said he believes patriotism is not explicitly necessary on campus, but that it’s presence isn’t

  “I think what’s necessary is to get kids, slowly but surely, to understand that in the system that we’ve set up they’ve got a say … at the age of 18,” Dell’Orto said. “But, (with) that comes a massive amount of responsibility. If you really want to build good citizens over time – that question should be a small version of how can the school be better? How could our classrooms be better? How could I be a better student? That then extrapolates out to – how can we make the country better?”

  GBHS Business Law, Computer Applications and Business Communications teacher William Patterson said he values patriotism, especially on a high school campus.

  Patterson said during his high school experience he had friends go to Vietnam during the war which had a major effect on him, and, because of his experience, he believes that experience during high school with patriotism will influence and impact the next generation’s patriotic identity.

  Wilkin also said he believes patriotism at school is a great way to create unity among GBHS students, but he said he does not believe schools should necessarily enforce patriotism because freedom is a defining factor of the United States.

  In opposition, Matheus said if schools want to teach patriotism, they should also teach about the nation’s follies.

  “They shouldn’t encourage patriotism unless they also show us the whole truth,” Matheus said. “I don’t think we should have (patriotic) observances unless we have the equal amount of time of education on the reality of our country. Education is necessary because blind nationalism promotes ignorance.”

  According to Dell’Orto, GBHS does a great job of reflecting on how great we are as a nation every day, but he proposes what the real purpose of the patriotic observances should be.

  “It’s not hard to get a bunch of people brainwashed to spout stuff off,” Dell’Orto said. “But to get people to think independently, to stand on their own two feet (and question the majority) – that, in my mind, is way more important than getting a kid to be able to understand that when we do the pledge you stand up and put your hand over your heart. That takes a lifetime of teaching, and I think that we are working on doing a pretty good job (of that).”

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